I'm going to irritate all of the people who think I overshare and am overhonest on this journal and I'm going to keep track of all of my sessions here, because I feel one of the major pluses of blogging is that it helps other people find what total strangers have done and helps them come up with solutions for their own lives. And if you already know me, well, maybe you'll find it interesting. Or not. I think I will find it interesting in retrospect.
Session one was a downer in part because I don't really like talking about being sexually abused my by stepfather all that much; while young I was told I mustn't tell, then when I got older I found people rejected me as a freak when I told them what had happened to me. I finally realized it wasn't my fault, none of it, and I had, truly, nothing to be ashamed of, and that other people's treatment of me around this issue was really abysmal. However, I've also recognized it makes people profoundly uncomfortable to hear about it, and for some people it may kick up bad things, so I'm going to be careful about talking about it here. I don't think it's really the main cause of my problems, whatever they are, but it looks like it will come up. So we established that my childhood, between my mother being an alcoholic who kind of checked out permanently when I was 12, and my other problem (behind cut), may have had some lasting effects on me. This is on top of my current problems, in which I continue, as an adult, to feel rejected, depressed, and God knows what else (like I'm a bad person, basically). But those are some of the things I'd like to fix, and, even if we can't get my life perfect, I want to see about not feeling like there's no point in living it anymore like I did at the end of October. So I've signed up for at least three months of counseling, one day a week, through mid-May.
Tonight we started out "exploring some of the schemas." I closed my eyes and envisioned a place from my childhood where I felt safe and happy. Of course I was at my Grandma's house, on the farm, in my bedroom on a summer day, with the window open and the smell of hay coming in from the pasture. I was reading, and my biggest worry was "was I going to run out of books before next Monday when we get to go back to the library." (In fact that wasn't my biggest problem: my Grandma and I would sometimes fight horribly, as she was very impatient and I was very stubborn; I was also constantly aware of both the doom of having to go back home and the fact I just didn't feel liked at all by the other kids in the neighborhood.) Grandma wasn't very affectionate but she wanted me to do everything with her; she took me everywhere, she treated me to the movies I wanted to see, she took me rollerskating (I imagine this was quite dull), she took me to her farm wife quilting events. I read and played by myself and followed her around; she taught me how to tie my shoes, how to cook, how to read, how to drive. I knew she wanted me around.
Switch to a memory of some time when I felt like things were not very good (he said); I kicked up a memory that could have been anytime from 15-17, of me standing in the doorway of my mom's bedroom in the trailer on a Saturday at about 1, trying to get her to let me go do something, when all she wanted to do was shut up and leave her alone so she could sleep. "How did you feel?" "Frustrated and angry." "What did you want?" "Her to get out of bed and do something, hang out with me, just anything. I would have love it if she'd made me breakfast. I hated her shutting me out. I didn't understand what a hangover was, or that she was an alcoholic. I wasn't the kind of kid who'd do things wrong just to get attention so instead I was just entirely ignored."
So we established pretty well that I have emotional deprivation issues. My dad also gives me nothing, and really never has; I eked out what I could where I could get it but mostly learned to live without ever getting love, affection, or approval. I mean, hey, isn't that what school is for?
Talking about my dad and him brushing me off and being rude to me, we got onto another schema; defectiveness. I've been rejected for most of my life, starting with my parents (and you can say, "Oh my dad's got Aspergers" but that still doesn't help you feel like your daddy would really love you if only there wasn't something wrong with you), and unfortunately this has continued as an adult. Now, sometimes people will cut you off and tell you why ("No point making friends with someone who's moving anyway"), but a lot of the times if you feel defective, even minor rejections just hurt really hard because they kick up your inner feelings of worthlessness. I'm having TWO issues here; one is that I'm having people very publicly reject me for whatever reasons (and seriously my relationship with my husband is mostly nothing you should get in the middle of one way or another, and woe betide the person who picks sides in a family feud) or like my brother saying it wasn't worth seeing me if it meant losing sleep; then there's the thing where I want to see people and they don't want to see me and I just take it really badly, as a statement of personal worthlessness, because 1) all of these other people are shutting me out anyway 2) I feel worthless and that's obviously why they don't want to see me 3) I'm depressed and don't have a lot of perspective to step back from the feeling of DOOM DOOM REJECTION and realized people have busy schedules or not as much energy as me or WHATEVER because my 8 year old heart hears the worst. So we agreed defectiveness is probably one of my schemas, too.
Then we got on to coping mechanisms. Apparently people with "emotional deprivation" will cope in three ways. First, they numb themselves so they just don't have to feel things. This tends to involve drugs and alcohol; it's not me so much. Second, they deliberately choose partners who will keep them at arms length and reaffirm their feelings. Jason actually was always a positive person who would feed me good messages about myself, despite not really knowing how to cope with my melancholy; Richard regularly praises my accomplishments and progress. While I may have chosen people who tore me down in the past, in fact, I don't like people who belittle me or make me feel unworthy; I want to be around people who praise me (but when I deserve it, not sycophants).
The third coping mechanism was ... to be demanding of attention and praise, to be too needy. An example in the book is of someone who gets a birthday present and then feels like it's just not as expensive as what they should have got, "deprivation when you have clear evidence of caring." I don't think I'm too needy, but I've been accused of "fishing for compliments." So maybe this is or isn't a problem for me now, but, I don't know, I could sure just use a bit more praise - anytime someone says something nice about or to me, I mull over it for days and days just like I'd found a particularly pretty pebble on the beach, or been given a lovely candy that I wanted to admire instead of eat.
This also kind of feeds into the "defectiveness" feeling. I mean, I feel like there's something just critically wrong with me, so when people do say something nice about me, it's almost impossible for me to accept the compliment. (So I think what I need to do is raise my self esteem a bit ... then get more compliments and praise because it makes me so happy!) Defectiveness (as a schema) can make you choose people who tear you apart ... or it can make you the kind of person who is highly critical and rejecting of others. This may be something I do. But it also may feed into ...
A third "schema" came up briefly, the "mistrust and abuse" one. Clearly I was in a situation in which I had to be on guard and on the defensive, constantly judging and looking out for attack from others. And when something happens that makes me feel attacked ... well, it kicks up bad things in my head. Apparently one of the things it may do is cause a dissociative episode, something which happened rather frequently to me over the last 2 1/2 years, the feeling of just trying to float away out of my body and out of the situation I was in that I felt I couldn't leave. And the part where you weren't protected from the abuse, that causes problems too (although I'm looking at my book here to get both of those tips). The therapist just barely touched on the possibility that this may have affected me in ways that very negatively affect how I deal with life as an adult ... and I think this is very likely true. He did, though, praise me for trying to take some control of my life and not carry on in situations in which I was likely to receive abuse of some sort or another - a hard thing to reject a relationship when you know it will get you some attention and affection but also abuse.
Anyway, we got through the session pretty quickly, it seemed, though I was grateful to have it be over and be able to leave. The walk back home across Tooting Common was nice for clearing my head although I was a bit worried it might not be safe to be on it at 10PM at night. I made it home safe, though, and while what I really want to do is write up my review of Salad Days or do more research on where to dive in the Red Sea, I wanted to share this with the Imaginary Reader who might be trying to figure out just what squirrely thing in their head was making them do something they didn't understand.